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NY Auto Show: Cleaner, high MPG cars have staying power

The 2012 New York International Auto Show featured some exciting new car reveals and awards, including "World Green Car of the Year." A key message in New York was that plugs are not going away, but the introduction of new clean diesel models and overall increased fuel efficiency from traditional engines gives a glimpse of the variety in high-efficiency, low carbon emissions vehicles to hit the market in the coming years.

Plug-in Electric Vehicles and Future Mobility

In a conversation with Rich Steinberg, BMW North America's Manager of Electric Vehicle Operations and Strategy, he pointed to the ActiveE and i-Brand of electric and plug-in hybrid electric cars as evidence that "plugs are here to stay." At the show, BMW once again highlighted their commitment to electric mobility by showing off the i3 and i8 concepts, as well as touting their i Ventures group, located here in New York City, and tasked with finding, investing in, and incubating breakthrough technologies in future mobility.

Infiniti LE ConceptNissan's luxury brand, Infiniti, revealed the LE Concept (pictured at left), touted, "a new take on sustainability." Announced by CEO Carlos Ghosn, this is a premium electric vehicle with a 100 mile range and standard wireless charging technology. The LE Concept builds on Nissan's experience with the LEAF and showcases the drivetrain technology in a luxury automobile.

Fisker had a booth at the auto show as well and revealed the Atlantic (below at right) the evening before the show opened, where Fisker's newest addition to their vehicle lineup made its first public appearance alongside the production Karma.

Clean Diesels Come to the City that Never Sleeps

Fisker AtlanticThe 2012 "World Green Car of the Year" was awarded to the Mercedes-Benz S 250 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY. The Benz features a turbo-charged, 4-cylinder diesel engine that achieves 41 mpg. It beat the Ford Focus Electric and Peugeot 3008 Hybrid for the honors.

Continuing on the clean diesel theme, Porsche introduced the Cayenne Diesel (below at left) to the U.S. market. Porsche believes the U.S. market is well-positioned to receive the luxury SUV, playing on America's preference for capable SUVs, but adding 28 mpg and light weight design to the equation. Also, with 406 lb-ft of torque, buyers can most likely tow their GT3 to the racetrack without breaking a sweat.

Porsche Cayenne DieselHigh Efficiency Keeping Up With EV Technology

A number of automakers showed off traditional, internal-combustion engines in their new car models, highlighted by increases in fuel efficiency brought on by technological advances like stop-start and high-strength, lightweight steel.

Mazda'sTakeri Concept car is said to "strongly influence" the new Mazda6, complete with advanced SkyActive technology. The new Mazda6 aims to have class leading fuel efficiency, without use of a hybrid system. The suite of SkyActive technologies featured on the Takeri should result in a 30 percent "improvement in environmental footprint," according to Mazda spokespeople.

Chrysler showed a new pickup that achieves "best in class fuel economy" through use of twelve new technologies, including stop-start, grille shutters, and high-strength, weight-saving steel. The new Ram 1500 will be as rugged and durable as ever, Chrysler says, yet offer 20% better fuel economy than the outgoing models.

Other highlights from the show:

  • Chevrolet revealed the 2014, 10th-generation Impala, including a 2.4L, 4-cylinder engine with e-assist that returns 35 mpg
  • smart debuted their refreshed fortwo electric drive, featuring an all-new electric drivetrain aimed at urban dwellers
  • Acura, following up on their NSX Concept reveal in Detroit, showed off their RLX Concept, which features the same Sport Hybrid Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system, returning 30 mpg in both city and highway driving
  • Toyota announced that the Prius sold nearly 29,000 units in March, then revealed the new all Avalon
  • Nissan unveiled the NV 200 "Taxi of Tomorrow" (pictured below at right), a passenger van that will start replacing the traditional yellow cabs in the Big Apple starting in late 2013

To Plug In or Not?

Nissan Taxi of the Future

The adoption of electric vehicles will take nothing less than the convergence of automakers, electric vehicle infrastructure suppliers, utilities, policy makers, and customers in emerging collaborative efforts to build out the category. This is no small task. As BMW's Steinberg so succinctly stated, plugs are here to stay. But, with adoption of electric vehicles taking place in the long term, sustainable mobility is taking on a portfolio of clean diesel and high efficiency internal combustion engine cars in the near term, and seems like they're here to stay as well.

Photos courtesy of the author.

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